Traditional postsecondary education paths may be losing their luster as students turn away from four-year college degree programs at growing rates. This shift, driven by financial and post-degree considerations, enhances the popularity of career and technical education (CTE) programs, which larger numbers of students see as routes to fulfilling careers with good wages.

But getting access to CTE programs doesn’t address many challenges students from communities with low incomes face, particularly among Black students and other students of color. Providing disadvantaged students access to CTE and job training is only part of making these programs more equitable. Many CTE programs are working explicitly on reducing the equity gaps laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide attention to the effects of racism since the May 2020 murder of George Floyd. The parameters of employer-CTE partnerships are shifting to include post-program considerations like creating genuinely inclusive workplace environments, building meaningful mentorships, and focusing on “asset-based” language that emphasizes people’s strengths rather than their real or presumed deficits.

At a panel discussion with New York–based CTE stakeholders, Grantmakers for Education, a nonprofit advisor to educational philanthropic organizations, asked nonprofit organizations and corporate partners about successful strategies for furthering equity in CTE programs and job placements. The discussion, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and moderated by Sonia Drohojowska of MDRC, featured comments from Bridgette Gray, chief impact officer of Per Scholas, a workforce development organization that provides free certificates and training in the technology industry; Joshua Poyer, vice president at Here to Here, a Bronx-based nonprofit organization that brings together employers, high schools, community leaders, and higher education institutions to develop career pathways for youth; and Grace Suh, vice president for education and corporate social responsibility at IBM, the founding industry partner in the P-TECH 9-14 schools program. These open enrollment schools are part of a global network developed by IBM that includes 266 high schools, 206 colleges, and other industry partners.

Read the full article about equity partnerships by Erika B. Lewy at MDRC.